Genealogists turned hackers

If you’ve filled out an online registration form you’ve probably noticed the latest security idea – challenge questions. These questions are used if you forget your password to make sure you’re you, but they are also a prime way for hackers* to infiltrate your account. It occurred to me that a reasonably skilled genealogist could answer these questions too.

The questions for one of the sites were.

  1. What city were you born in?
  2. What is your mother’s maiden name?
  3. What is your father’s middle name?
  4. What was the name of your elementary school?
  5. What is your mother’s date of birth?
  6. What is your father’s date of birth?
  7. What is the date of your wedding anniversary?

If you hired a genealogist gone bad, they could probably answer all of those questions. Sheesh. We better hope doesn’t turn to the dark side.

* I know, I know, hackers in this sense are really crackers, but if I changed the title to crackers, then people would think of saltines and ritz instead of demonic genealogists. Besides, most of the world uses hackers instead of crackers anyway. It seems to be a losing battle.


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  1. When I use cracker, it’s a derogatory term for ‘white’ people. In fact, when used this way, it really refers to slave owners “cracking” the whip.
    For the record, I would have used hacker as well.

    Comment by elsmob on October 5, 2006 @ 8:05 am
  2. There’s a debate regarding the use of hacker and cracker. According to the American Heritage dictionary both terms work. A hacker (definition #2) is one who uses programming skills to gain illegal access to a computer network or file. A cracker (definition 2d) is one who makes unauthorized use of a computer, especially to tamper with data or programs.

    Comment by dan on October 5, 2006 @ 10:02 am
  3. Just because we’re losing the battle doesn’t mean we should retreat! The bastardization of the language has to stop somewhere, right?

    Comment by Joe Levi on October 5, 2006 @ 11:20 am
  4. Joe: Nope – it’s never going to stop. Languages are constantly changing. Dictionaries add new words every year, remove or mark others as archaic and make changes as general usage dictates. If a word or phrase is used long enough, it will eventually become the norm. With hackers vs. crackers, it’s pretty clear that mainstream media and the public in general use hackers in the sense of definition #2. Once it’s in our dictionaries, the issue is pretty well decided.

    Feel free to continue using crackers, but most people will think you’re talking about a thin crisp wafer or biscuit, usually made of unsweetened dough.

    Comment by dan on October 5, 2006 @ 11:29 am

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